RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toxic chemicals at fire scenes put crews at a greater risk than the general public for developing cancer
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In Fayetteville, 11 active duty firefighters are battling cancer. Two firefighters in Durham are receiving treatment, and two in Raleigh recently underwent treatment.
"It scares me," said Gregory Bridges, a veteran firefighter and battalion chief for Raleigh Fire Department. "For the guys like myself who have been in the fire service a long time, the odds of me getting cancer is high.
"I think about my brothers and sisters around the country that are struggling. And our job now - knowing what we know - is to try to do everything we can to prevent cancer for our younger people," he added.
The Raleigh Fire Department responded to 60,000 fires last year.
WHAT'S BEING DONE
Bridges said the department has implemented new strategies to prevent overexposure to cancerous toxins.
Raleigh firefighters have been given two sets of gear that they can swap out. After 10 years, crews get a new set.
Firefighters are also urged to shower immediately after fighting a fire and use antiseptic wipes.
Bridges said stations in Raleigh are being equipped with heavy-duty washing machines called extractors, which are designed to remove harmful chemicals.
Each station is also fitted with yellow tubes that suck exhaust from a parked fire engine so none of it circulates inside a firehouse.
Raleigh firefighters are using these measures to educate younger firefighters.
On Wednesday in Fayetteville, new recruits will sit through a training exercise about keeping themselves safe from toxins.
Last month, members of Congress in the House passed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. It's an effort to help keep track of current and retired firefighters with cancer. The bill now goes to the Senate.